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Thread: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

  1. #76
    Mandolin Botherer Shelagh Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    If you're choosing not to use tremolo, just the sustain of the note on a mandolin, then you're probably playing a "slow tune" and not an actual slow air where the notes are spaced too far apart.
    I see. I hadn't realised that...

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by des View Post
    "
    To connect this with mandolin tremolo - Dagger's point about the tenor banjo in ireland reminds me of the guy who plays tenor banjo at the end of Dun Laoghaire East Pier most Sundays - he plays "Lara's Theme" (Dr Zhivago) at a slow pace with a pretty good tremolo. Not exactly purist "trad" - but only in Ireland.
    Great post there Des, spot on. That Tiarnan O'Connail clip was the business - I remember seeing some from a few years back and he just keeps getting better and better! Also, I spent many childhood Sundays visiting family in Dun Laoghaire - we'd always get a bag of chips and walk down the pier, rain or shine!
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Did you not go for a Teddys ice cream?
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Oh probably on occasion but I always associate the pier with eating chips!
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eddie Sheehy View Post
    Here's the tune that started me on mandolin - My Lagan Love played by the Wolfe Tones - Derek Warfield on mandolin.

    I can see where that might appeal to a mandolin-focused audience. The question for me is whether or not it does justice to the tune. What I hear in that Wolfe Tones version is a bare skeleton of the notes, flattened into steady meter with good rhythm, but not a heck of a lot of emotional interpretation of the tune. It's the same thing when comparing that Dubliners version of Roisin Dubh earlier in the thread to the Joanie Madden version on whistle.

    In other words, shouldn't an air sound like an air? Or is it okay to just borrow the bare melody line and call that the tune?

    Here's what Lagan Love sounds like from a singer in the clip below. This is what an air sounds like with full expression, which tremolo (IMO) simply can't capture:




    Here's another version with Van Morrison, rougher around the edges but still obviously sounding like a slow air:


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  8. #81

    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    ... whether or not it does justice to the tune.
    A big issue, obviously. I tend to hear and relate to pathos in the music, while others may find this [aspect] maudlin or sentimental. But I'm like Archie Shepp, who said [paraphr], 'I'm worse than a romantic - I'm a sentimentalist ..'

    Van may not have been talking of 'airs,' exactly, in this context (speaking here of his writing process), but I find it relevant in this discussion. Albeit the Wolfetones may not have been going for 'suffering'..





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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eddie Sheehy View Post
    A little slower so...

    That's a great case study for hearing it done both ways, and deciding which sounds better (personal taste).

    One more thing that I don't think has been mentioned yet, is that when you go into full tremolo you give up the option of using ringing drones under the melody line, or partial chords tossed in here and there. That's the one advantage we have over the sustaining instruments like pipes, flutes, and fiddles. You can play a full or partial chord with tremolo, but you can't hold a dyad or partial chord and let it ring, while playing a few melody notes on top of that.

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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    As with everything, it ain't what you do - it's the way that you do it.

    Listen again to some of David Grisman's playing. No-one has done more for our instrument than him in my view. He is a very versatile player of course, and he tends to use quite a lot of tremolo, but he uses a lot of sensitivity and DYNAMICS. Generally he keeps it going while playing his tremolo quite quietly. Whether he's having a go at John Coltrane's Naima or an old timey waltz his playing seems to me to be exemplary. I've been listening to his album The Living Room Sessions a lot.

    I realise that it is not Irish music, but I have no doubt that his approach can be easily adapted to just about anything.
    Last edited by Dagger Gordon; Jan-19-2016 at 2:50am.
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Completely agree Dagger. I'm also not sure people will find online videos of examples of how it could be made to work.
    That's a large part of why I used the Quintillian quote, people are looking to others for what has been done in order to get some kind of permission to proceed. But Irish traditional music is only very traditional in its adherence to what works to express the music and all the instruments introduced to the genre in the 19th & 20th century prove it is open to what works as long as it actually works. Mandolin and similar instruments have been able to 'sit in' as long as they are kept to areas within the grasp of most players.
    We get to add a great lift to the start of a fiddle note in slower tunes and can give a really tidy pop to the faster tunes which I think can be a real improvement to just having fiddle on the fastest tunes.

    However in terms of tremolo I don't think it has been properly explored by mandolinists with enough background in the specific genre of Irish traditional music, who also have brought their mandolin skills up to the point where the very high skill level required can be applied and explored. (We don't yet have a Chris Aquevella or Gertrude Weyhofen etc in ITM)

    As Foldedpath has been indicating getting the slow sean os feel, or the 'blás', would require the ability to be smooth with proper messa di voce (shaping and placement of the note), you would need tremolo which literally has no joins, which can rise and fall several times within one note. Ideally you would need to be able to establish a drone which is modulating and shaping, while performing a duo style tune with the required modulation and crans and fills of your tune. It would be a challenge which I think is achievable, but would be easily as difficult as learning the pipes to a very high level. You're going to have to lock yourself away in the bedroom for a lot of years to get the level of skill needed to master the skills needed to do tremolo to the point where it belongs and is a worthy equal to the instruments being used in that role so far.

    I'm totally convinced that the mandolin is capable of that role and just as convinced that I have not yet heard a player who has reached that level within the tradition. It's just not what people do, instead (like I did) we pick up the fiddle to get the sustain and subtlety of control and make ourselves into fiddlers, or get called by the lure of the pipes. But just because it hasn't been taken there doesn't mean it shouldn't, the mandolin can do this convincingly in the right hands. I really would urge people to shoot for the stars there, because even falling short of the ideal you're going to be a way better trad player from what you learn on the journey.
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    I really would urge people to shoot for the stars there, because even falling short of the ideal you're going to be a way better trad player from what you learn on the journey.
    Second that - the stuff to make yourself proud.
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    Mandolin Botherer Shelagh Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    However in terms of tremolo I don't think it has been properly explored by mandolinists with enough background in the specific genre of Irish traditional music, who also have brought their mandolin skills up to the point where the very high skill level required can be applied and explored.
    Some of us at least have been trying (for example I was brought up playing ITM and have been playing mandolin for close on 50 years).

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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    I'm not saying there are no good players, nor is my point about not appreciating that people bust their chops getting good at this. I know, every fortnight I play with someone who has put a similar number of years to you into it and he has a real feel for what works, but just none seem to have taken the instrument beyond the level of accuracy & subtlety needed for its current roles so it can move to a core instrument position. For something like tremolo to really work in a genre like this, where it runs the risk of sounding like something totally alien, it needs a new level of playing beyond what is currently necessary to be good as a mandolinist in ITM . Now if you're saying you can seamlessly tremolo duo style with both lines modulating like a fiddler or piper with the drones going, to the point where people can't even identify its not either, then we've arrived and I'll be booking tickets. I think that's the level it needs to be convincing and I've never heard it to date. But again, I'm convinced if people aim for it, it is accessible and could work out really well.
    Eoin



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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    If you can find it there is a compilation CD called, 'The Dubliners Instrumentals ' by Chyme Music, Belfast.

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    Mandolin Botherer Shelagh Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Now if you're saying you can seamlessly tremolo duo style with both lines modulating like a fiddler or piper with the drones going, to the point where people can't even identify its not either, then we've arrived and I'll be booking tickets.
    But why would I want to try and emulate being a fiddler or piper with the drones going when I can try to achieve something different and appropriate with all the techniques available to me which suits the mandolin as an instrument in its own right?

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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Moore View Post
    But why would I want to try and emulate being a fiddler or piper with the drones going when I can try to achieve something different and appropriate with all the techniques available to me which suits the mandolin as an instrument in its own right?
    Why indeed? I mean, if you can, that's pretty cool but I honestly don't see what the problem is with just playing ITM on the mandolin, using whatever techniques you are able to do and which seem to you to be appropriate.

    This is Mandolin Cafe, after all!
    Last edited by Dagger Gordon; Jan-20-2016 at 9:49am.
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    My reasons for trying would be because I'm a mandolinist, so everything I do on the mandolin is to make me do it better, to explore all the possibilities. It's a bit like asking a climber why he doesn't just get the cable car to the top.
    Eoin



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    Mandolin Botherer Shelagh Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    My reasons for trying would be because I'm a mandolinist, so everything I do on the mandolin is to make me do it better, to explore all the possibilities. It's a bit like asking a climber why he doesn't just get the cable car to the top.
    Same with most of us I guess. With or without tremelo.

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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Yep, no harm in sticking to the well prepared routes, you still get a good climb.
    I'm just hoping someday there'll be an Irish Trad tremolo version of Charles Barrington to show us how it can be done.
    Eoin



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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    Yep, no harm in sticking to the well prepared routes, you still get a good climb.
    I'm just hoping someday there'll be an Irish Trad tremolo version of Charles Barrington to show us how it can be done.
    I'm thinking effective ('Irish') airs will be executed on charango and various 'exotic' instrumentation - like Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and hardingfele for example - before the mandolin proper, as folks bring radically new approaches and instrumentation to the (er) table. There are folks playing tunes on ouds, for example.. I generally agree with most of what's been said - as Beanzy mentions, we haven't seen the art of the air realized (effectively, imo) on mandolin. I believe there are many players extant, who would - if it could be done. I understand mine is not a popular opinion; I don't feel that mandolin is effective for Bach, either, for example - I just don't like the sound.

    Of course, I could be wrong and perhaps the player will come with the technique to overcome its limitations.

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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Moore View Post
    But why would I want to try and emulate being a fiddler or piper with the drones going when I can try to achieve something different and appropriate with all the techniques available to me which suits the mandolin as an instrument in its own right?
    Maybe because (referring back to the James Kelley quote I mentioned earlier) the goal is to bring the music to your instrument, and not the other way around.

    I think it's worth noting that all the other players of plucked or hammered string instruments in this music -- the banjo, guitar, harp, and hammered dulcimer -- simply use the sustain of a struck note when playing slower tunes. None of those players use a constant tremolo technique, although it would be technically possible. Maybe it's worth asking why? It just might be because letting a note die with a little sustain is a better way to play the slower tunes in this particular style of music.

    Or we could just ignore all that, and rip into a slow tune with tremolo because hey, it's what you do on a mandolin with Classical, Italian, and Bluegrass music.

  27. #96

    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post

    I think it's worth noting that all the other players of plucked or hammered string instruments in this music -- the banjo, guitar, harp, and hammered dulcimer -- simply use the sustain of a struck note when playing slower tunes. None of those players use a constant tremolo technique...
    I use it (trem) often on hammered dulcimer - consequently the instrument is quite effective for airs (and in fact was much earlier going to elucidate some of its similarities/differences with mandolin). However, one can easily achieve a very fine, dynamic trem on HD - (I used to carry a youtube clip of one of my heroes Shivkumar Sharma in my sig line until it was no longer available - the subtlety executed is superlative); like with rolls on a snare drum, we can trem very softly - almost inaudibly.

    Here's one showing some of the techniques while tuning up - not nearly as exemplary, but..




    But yep, not on harp - the resonance itself does the trick (nor do we have sticks..)
    Last edited by catmandu2; Jan-20-2016 at 2:06pm.

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    Mandolin Botherer Shelagh Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    It just might be because letting a note die with a little sustain is a better way to play the slower tunes in this particular style of music.

    Or we could just ignore all that, and rip into a slow tune with tremolo because hey, it's what you do on a mandolin with Classical, Italian, and Bluegrass music.
    As with many things then... a matter of opinion and choice of the player.

  29. #98
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    I use it (trem) often on hammered dulcimer - consequently the instrument is quite effective for airs (and in fact was much earlier going to elucidate some of its similarities/differences with mandolin).
    Interesting. I did do a quick search through some YouTube clips to get a feel for what common practice might be on hammered dulcimer, specifically for Irish trad slower tunes and airs. Didn't find any with tremolo. All the ones I found were using single notes, along with partial or full chords at intervals. Maybe I didn't look hard enough.

    I do know what I'd be thinking of a hammered dulcimer player who sat behind me in a pub session, and hammer-tremolo'd their way through a slow tune though. I think I'd be heading to the bar for a refill. Personal taste, again...

  30. #99

    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post

    I do know what I'd be thinking of a hammered dulcimer player who sat behind me in a pub session, and hammer-tremolo'd their way through a slow tune though. I think I'd be heading to the bar for a refill. Personal taste, again...
    I knew I should have been more explicit! - should have edited ..

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    I use it (trem) often on hammered dulcimer - consequently the instrument is quite effective for (SOLO) airs ..
    Better?

    Same with harp - the overtones on these instruments are immense - going back now to several pages ago when Beanzy brought up - space and not playing .. the wire harp for example rings and sustains powerfully once a note is activated - it sometimes reminds me of an organ (which in turn reminds me of a pedal steel) - so stopping a string is just as subtle or distinct as activating a string - this can be exploited to rhythmic effect, and was thinking of this in relation to 'how to play the mandolin in 'airs".. etc. Of course this is true of all instruments to their degree - some instruments with powerful sustain are just more pronounced in these aspects and lending to these subtleties (and why one doesn't play airs at sessions).

    Incidentally, The Asian long zithers don't have these problems, for example - they're pentatonic (there are alterations, for the record) so players can whack *(or whip like mules) their instruments and stay consonant *which by the way is increasingly more common technique in modern zheng reperoitre, etc, as with guitars, etc .. a large resonant box is a mountainous resource to be exploited..)
    Last edited by catmandu2; Jan-20-2016 at 3:22pm. Reason: *

  31. #100

    Default Re: Tremolo for Irish Trad?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Interesting. I did do a quick search through some YouTube clips to get a feel for what common practice might be on hammered dulcimer, specifically for Irish trad slower tunes and airs. Didn't find any with tremolo. All the ones I found were using single notes, along with partial or full chords at intervals. Maybe I didn't look hard enough.
    And btw, I don't know of any HD I like on the web except Rakes of Kildare on that little Oakwood .. I play O'carolan, jigs, reels, a hornpipe or two, but mostly harp pieces. I got into HD for its harp-likeness - They were my surrogate for harp for decades until I finally started harping proper - mine are the large and resonant floating top variety (not the fixed tops - I can't stand the vast majority of everything on the net. I abhor 80% of the HD I hear and can't abide 98% of it. I've always abhorred HD in ensemble. The thing was made to make people dance - it's a piano without a damper -

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